Dual: Parallel Trouble Adventure Staff Review

DUAL [1999]


Flash Gordon (Anime Corner Staff Writer)


Pioneer Elite Plasma Display System PDP-5050SX
Denon AV Surround Receiver AVR-1801 with Dolby Digital/ DTS
Boston Acoustics Micro90T Die-Cast Surround Speakers including Subwoofer
Toshiba DVD SD-3755 Player with Dolby Digital/ DTS/ 3D Surround Sound. 





DESIGNS: ATSUSHI OKUDA [character]/ KENJI TERAOKA [mechanical]/ MASAKI KAJISHIMA [original character design]
THEME SONG: ĎDUALí HARU & SAYAKA [opening theme]
ĎREALí SHIFO [closing theme]


Dual DVD Boxed Set

  REVIEW (Warning: Spoilers Ahead!)

Trouble indeed. The creative team behind Dual! Parallel Trouble Adventure [Dual!] serves up a half-hearted robot anime that just doesnít pack the punch. Itís missing the inventive teeth needed to rise above average. Conceptually it had the trappings to be special if only it were developed properly, but winds up half-baked Neon Genesis Evangelion-lite. There is little reservation the makers sought to capitalize on the success of the Gainax mega-hit. It has many of the matching key ingredients: the 3 robots, the teen pilots, the lead male protagonist, the urban combat et cetera. It lacks bite. It lacks originality. It lacks ingenuity. There isnít an original hydraulic piston in its oversized mecha suit to be found. The idea of a dual universe is good, hardly a new concept perhaps, but it lacks the imagination needed to make it fresh. The series is reminiscent almost cell by cell of other anime series. This is a weak adventure in serious trouble with a whole lot of Neon Genesis Evangelion [Evangelion] penis envy. 

Dual! is just too damn generic and anemic for its own good. Itís hard to get jazzed about this anime when frame for frame, character for character it feels like dťjŗ vu all the way. Itís almost entirely a case of been there done that. Itís sorely missing the richness of story and character necessary for an anime series to succeed, especially those it emulates like Evangelion. There have been similar cases where anime has come awful close to the Holy Grail that is Evangelion, but at least itís done with finesse, aplomb and a heap load of animation talent. Rahxephon comes to mind as a case in point courtesy of the folks at Bones.

The story of Dual! goes like this. In the first episode, an object of alien origin is recovered at an excavation dig and from that moment forward a schism occurs in the space-time continuum and dual universes persist moving forward with alternate and very different realities. One existence looks much like
Earth, while the other looks very much like; er-hum [cough], Evangelion. Grand, new technologies have been cultivated as a result of this mysterious artifact. One character, Kazuki Yotsuka, is the only unique entity. He is the lone individual who somehow exists without a living, breathing body double on the other side. There is no alternate Kazuki in the parallel world and good thing for him because the girls seem to like him. In time, he begins having disturbing visions of giant mecha battling in the streets outside his own classroom windows, which no one else can see. He is solely graced with this gift of clairvoyance enabling him to witness this parallel dimension. Though there is one character, Professor Ken Sanada, who believes an alternate universe exists and his mission is to prove that theory true. Sanadaís beautiful daughter, Mitsuki, ultimately brings her father and Kazuki together. Professor Sanada introduces Kazuki to the equipment he has built, which can teleport an individual to the dual Earth. 

As chance would have it, Katzuki ends up in a parallel, troubled misadventure. It is there he meets the alternate cast of characters from his own world; who behave quite differently or offer personalities polar opposite to their Earth selves. Instead of being some crazy loon, Sanada is actually respected and supported by the UN who has funded the creation of the Earth Defense Command [EDC] [sound like NERV?]. The
organizationís sole mission is to stop the Ďevilí Rara. In actuality, the series is sprinkled with a kind of silly humor throughout and Rara is a lot more ridiculous and wacky than he is evil. In fact, his wife appears to wear the pants in the family and she comes off much darker than the zany Rara [sounds eerily familiar to marital reality]. Mitsuki has also made her way to this new universe where she meets her rather unpleasant counterpart. She and Katzuki, it is determined, are quite capable of becoming pilots for the EDC [young pilots, hmmmÖ canít quite place where Iíve heard that one]. Katzuki pilots Zinv, by far and away the coolest looking robot unit of the bunch. The two partners also meet D, a cool, emotionless female, from yet another lost time and race, with a strange gaping hole in her face where her eyeball should be, obstructed from view by an overlap of bright radioactive green hair [Rei Ayanami with a slight physical defect anyone?]. Brace yourself! They even live together [whereís Pen Pen when you need him?]. Thatís a novel idea. It must have taken a considerable think tank to generate the twists and turns in this storyboard. At least names were changed to protect the real identities of the characters and ideas from which the production is based. When all is said and done, relief arrives, not because there is a tidy ending [perhaps they missed the final episodes of Evangelion], but because itís over in 12 episodes. You would welcome the provocative, confounding conclusions in the challenging Gainax classic any day of the week over this ill-conceived attempt bordering on copyright infringement. No apologies, aping anime to this extent has a tendency to breed contempt. Please do not insult our intelligence.

So what does work in Dual!? Well, the voice-acting on the English dub is good enough. The animation is good. Itís nicely drawn with minor computer enhancements that are okay, most notable during launch sequences for the mecha, but Gonzo Digimation has no need to worry. Colors are vivid, but there is far less pencil detail on character and background giving it a more sterile look. Now this is subjective, but the sanitary, clean appearance of the animation gives the whole production a rushed, cookie-cutter feel. The lack of detail throughout the production gives the feel of
serviceable anime at best. Thereís nothing too special about it. Some of the robot battles and cockpit scenarios are good sequences, but once again they never develop into anything impressive in the least and itís dťjŗ vu all over again. Gunparade March is a fine example of a work that has built upon previously existing notions and established expectations and done so soundly. Zinv is the best-designed mechanized giant here. The final creations look as if someone died at the desk while they were sketching out concept designs [the fierce Eva Units have nothing to agonize in the way of competition]. Even when everything is working, the lack of skilled, artful animators combined with weak execution and equally weak script just cannot deliver the goods. While I am a detractor of the series, in case you didnít notice, some otaku have found the light mood and the far less serious tone in Dual!, quite affable, approachable, acceptable, and refreshing. The series has garnered a sizeable fan base, which is vehement in singing its praises. The accessibility factor may be geared toward the young. There just isnít enough innovative meat here or quality for more mature otaku sensibilities. For the creators, perhaps the anime newbie was the target audience, perhaps it was the anime core, but for those schooled on any number of pre-existing anime series, this pales in comparison. There is nothing awe-inspiring about it. It wonít grab you by the throat with its rote familiarity and overtly contrived plot and shake you up. Even if the aforementioned series never materialized, Dual! would have difficulty finding a broader audience due to poor execution. 

While it mirrors anime already out there in circulation, it never ventures beyond unoriginality and never digs deep enough for us to really care about this short
adventure inhabited with significantly underdeveloped characters. Itís one thing to compare a series like Samurai 7 to Akira Kurosawaís Seven Samurai. Thereís a reason for the similarities. Itís an intentional reinterpretation. Itís a re-imagining of a classic. Itís done on purpose and you know that going in. Itís inevitable. It purposefully pays tribute utilizing an established template. Dual! pretends to be original and fresh. Yet, Dual! is nothing more than a cut and paste, pale imitation of much better productions on the market. It is an unabashed clone of far superior anime. Is it unfair to compare? You decide. They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery; and in some cases that is absolutely true. George Lucas paid considerable tribute to Kurosawaís Seven Samurai using its influence in Star Wars, but did so within the framework of a space opera and fresh ideas. As history and the box office would prove, it was a formula that was out of this world. Now thatís flattery. Dual! Parallel Trouble Adventure turns out to be a lifeless copy to the real deals out there for the taking. Itís merely a perfunctory exercise. Maybe in another universe it might have been a better adventure.

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